The Fr McGrath Centre in Kilkenny has come a long way. The one time school in the Butts area of Kilkenny city is now a thriving centre catering for a multitude of needs.
St. Canice’s Community Action Ltd (SCCA) is a not for profit registered charity that was originally formed in 1991. It was created by parish parents and residents due to pressing social problems in their community housing areas. In particular due to social problems facing children, young people and parents.
Since then they have grown to a large and diverse social and community support service running a variety of family, children and adult support, enterprise and training services including; The Fr. McGrath Family Resource Centre, The Learning Tree Childcare, Kilkenny Multimedia IT Training Centre, and St. Canice’s Neighbourhood Hall.
All these services, social enterprises and initiatives have grown from their Family Resource Centre.
The Fr. McGrath Family Resource Centre, a formerly derelict building and green space site in the heart of the Butts housing estate was purchased by SCCA in 1995. Finally, it was placed in Trust for the perpetual community use, and has since seen an investment of millions of euro over the following years.
Moreover, their newly adapted, three storey facility now boasts some of the best family and children support and training facilities in Kilkenny City. Their local centre includes extensive public play grounds, sports areas and public green space park facilities.
The centre now employs a large team of specialist family, children and youth profession support workers. Furthermore, the staff is responsible for the children’s education, youth development and parent and family support services.
HUNDREDS BENEFIT FROM FÁILTE ISTEACH
Last week ‘The Kilkenny Observer’ was invited to attend the awards presentation for The ‘Fáilte Isteach’ programme. This programme was founded ten years ago and continues to go from strength to strength.
Director of Services, Stephen Murphy welcomed and thanked the many volunteers who in the last ten years of ‘Fáilte Isteach’ operating from the Fr. McGrath Centre has helped hundreds of immigrants learn English and integrate into Irish society.
He thanked key volunteers Samuel Morgan, Margaret Birnie and Michael Armstrong. However, he said the Board reserved special thanks for Theresa Delahunty who founded the service ten years ago and has been the heart, soul and driving force of this service and the Immigrant Advisory Service running from their family resource centre since.
Speaking to the sixty plus audience , Mr Murphy continued, “Theresa is an inspiration to us all and on behalf of the hundreds of families that she has helped over those years we thank her for the energy, compassion and single mindedness she has brought to the issue of supports for asylum seekers, refugees and immigrants.”
Also present on the morning was founding director and current chairperson Mike Kelly. Mike smiled as he looked around at the gathering and commented that there was great satisfaction at the centre when you see such happiness in a room. “It is great to see a seed that was sown over ten years ago that continues to bear fruit”. quipped Mr Kelly.
AN ECLETIC MIX
The annual Fr. McGrath ‘Fáilte Isteach’ English Awards, presented by Mayor Andrew McGuinness, took place on Wednesday 25th. The event was attended by an eclectic mix from around the globe – diverse cultures from Africa, Asia, South America and Europe all gathered together, each with their own story to tell. Also present was a group of Ukrainians, who, due to circumstances outside their control, now find themselves living amongst us. They too want to learn and practice their English.
According to Theresa Delahunty at the centre, being able to speak English helps families get to know their Irish neighbours and so become part of the community. “Fluency in the language is also helping new migrants find work and so take their place and contribute to Irish life. The Fr. McGrath ‘Fáilte Isteach’ Project is filling a vital need and enriching our community”, continued Thearesa.
Each week in the Centre, a panel of volunteer tutors provide a forum where students learn and exchange ideas while at the same time learning English. Their teachers, all volunteers, constantly explore innovative ways for stimulating the conversation and reinforcing the learning experience. Everything from herb gardening to dance and music has been attempted, sometimes led by the students themselves. This makes for a relaxed environment and a person centred approach which underpins the ‘Fáilte Isteach’ ethos.
IMPORTANT TO REACH OUT
The Fr. McGrath Project is unique in that in addition to providing conversation English, participants are linked to a range of social, community and educational activities. The Centre is acutely aware of the importance of reaching out to new communities by valuing their diversity, while at the same time promoting inclusiveness within the local community. As one student commented, “I love coming to the Fr. McGrath Centre as I am made to feel so welcome and I have made many new friends from all over the world. We all communicate through the English language and this is helping us to practice and develop our English skills as well as getting to know what is going on in the local community”
The Awards were not just for the students but for tutors also.
The students who come from different countries were presented with certificates in recognition of their sterling work and their continuous commitment to the Project.
The next term commences on 21st September. Further details can be obtained by phoning:
The Fr. McGrath Centre
0567751988 or Immigrant Services
(Photos of the presentation of awards will appear in next weeks edition of The Kilkenny Observer)